As an active exercise enthusiast and participant — with arthritis in my knees — I would never dream of starting without my knee sleeves. So, I wasn’t surprised when I was stopped on my local walking track and asked “Do knee sleeves help arthritis”?
Well, I can tell you with as much enthusiasm as I answered that man, “I wouldn’t be caught without them”! Knee sleeves definitely help my own arthritic knees! But there’s plenty of people dealing with the same problem who have never thought of using them, and they don’t really understand arthritis?
I thought it would be a great idea to research and write an article about arthritis and knee sleeves because they definitely keep me active and moving — pain free. So, if you’re having problems with your own knees, this article could help you understand more about arthritis and how to help the problem?
On the other hand if want to take action now, the best knee support for arthritis will help you to keep walking, exercising and staying active with arthritis in your knees.
What Arthritis In The Knee Feels Like?
To come straight to the point, arthritis in my knees, and yours, means inflammation of the joint. The inflammation is caused by degeneration of cartilage, and all of this leaves me with knees that can be:
- Painful or aching
- Dealing with less range of motion
- Sore muscles surrounding the affected joints
Of course, your own symptoms will vary, usually depending on the degree and type of arthritis in your knees.
Are knee Sleeves just for sports?
I think most people don’t consider buying a knee sleeve, because they assume that they are only for use by more sports inclined people, don’t really work, or they just never came to mind? But the truth is that knee-sleeves are fantastic for pain remedy and real muscle support for arthritis in your knees as well as for:
- Sports people
- Weight lifters
- Tennis players
- Soccer players
- Etc., etc.
Face it: these things are great to help any person, including you, with any knee pain, whether or not you indulge in regular exercise or sports activities?
And that’s not all:
These simple compression sleeves are designed to protect you from injury and damage even when your knees are healthy! The compression factor that they provide increases blood flow and provides support to the joint. This increased blood flow and support is the reason weight lifters wear them: to help protect against injury and pain from pressure.
You can skip ahead and read this article: What Do Knee Sleeves Do? — if you’re in a hurry to know more specifics and why so many people are wearing them.
But before we get into that, I want to provide some simple information to help clarify arthritis, and how it affects you knees.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a descriptive word for pain, inflammation, or disease and much to my surprise, is a very common problem. It comes in many different forms that affects both men and women — from all kinds of backgrounds and ages, and even children! That said, a great number of those diagnosed with arthritis are over 65.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form and is the degeneration of cartilage in the joints. You can see from the image below that the cartilage can completely disappear, leaving knee joints bone on bone. However, most of us walking around and trying to stay active, with arthritis in our knees, don’t have this complete absence of cartilage. What we have is part of it missing and enough to be painful, aggravating, and aware that we either look for relief, or stop walking?
What I found even more surprising is that arthritis is a leading cause of disability in the USA! Learning that, I got excited to see just how much a knee sleeve could help someone with arthritis in the knees.
Avoiding movement is not the answer!
The most common way to avoid knee pain is to try to stay off of it, and not exert any undue pressure.
But the truth is: Avoiding movement and exercise is the worst thing to do! You’ll see farther into this post that exercise is the best alternative. By studying the image above, you can imagine that actually increasing muscle strength in your legs will help hold bones apart, taking pressure off of the joint. Another problem with avoiding using your knees is that they will actually freeze up.
I have found my best solution is knee sleeves and regular exercise! Between the two I keep muscles strong and encourage blood flow around my supporting muscles and joints.
Sleeves make my legs feel strong, and dependable all the time.
My biggest regret is that I wasn’t wearing them when my knees were strong and free of problems. They would have taken a lot of the burden off of my healthy knees.
How does arthritis start?
I have a little arthritis in some of my finger joints to go along with my knees. All of these particular joints get uncomfortable and often painful, during cold spells. The first time I really noticed it was during a prolonged period outside in cold winds, I had forgotten my gloves that day and my hands were frozen.
My left middle finger suddenly seemed to get stuck straight out and I couldn’t bend it. It was very painful. Once I was in the warm, I was gradually able to get movement back to it thankfully. Now I have to watch out for it and make sure I always wear a good pair of gloves if it is cold.
What arthritis in the knees feels like?
And, it’s pretty much the same thing with the arthritis in my knees. At first I noticed they would be vaguely sore after a day of exercise, but that’s about all. As time went along, they became more easily aggravated, and often felt like the joint was trying to catch on something.
Later on in the process they would be sore, and would suddenly feel as if they were unstable? However, for a long time I thought I had no defense against any of the symptoms: Until I learned about knee sleeves.
Does Osteoarthritis cause muscle pain?
If you’re like me, I have two problems going on in my knees. First there’s that nagging pain, both in my knees and in my muscles: especially the muscles above the joint. To go along with that, the arthritis gives me the sensation that my knees could give way “on me”. Know what I mean?
Most of that sensation is caused from muscles being overworked because they’re taking on part of the job of holding me erect now.
I hope I can find a good argument for you wearing a knee sleeve because I have found it quite beneficial for my pain and discomfort. I believe that this may be an answer for you in providing the relief and peace of mind for your knee pain and range of movement.
This is commonly known as osteoarthritis. The cartilage in the knee joint breaks down and bony growths develop, sometimes called bone spurs. This can be particularly painful.
It is said that osteoarthritis is more prevalent in women, particularly osteoarthritis of the knees. My research concluded that this is particularly so with post-menopausal women, due to the gradual reduction and changes in hormone levels during that period of time.
Knee osteoarthritis is more common in women due to these hormonal changes and also biomechanically they are physically structured differently to men, due to the hip width.
There is no real cure for Arthritis
Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for osteoarthritis. Arthritis is actually the cartilage wearing out, and breaking down. As the cartilage disappears — inflammation tends to take it’s place within the joints. I find my own to be manageable with a bit of knowledge and planning.
Cartilage in joints takes a beating, becomes damaged, and simply wears out — But cartilage can’t heal, regrow, or regenerate itself because it doesn’t contain blood vessels or nerves.
As with any arthritis, there are lifestyle measures that can help you, like managing your weight and regular exercise. Even though at first glance, exercising your sore and painful joints certainly seems counter intuitive, you need to keep the muscles around the affected joints strong and supple.
This is particularly so if you have arthritis in the knees because, if you are overweight, your joints get pushed out and your knees become out of alignment as your thighs get larger. Any pain already in your knees may get significantly worse.
I know it is challenging to try and lose weight when your movement is restricted because of pain in the knees, but it is well worth considering as a way of helping you to manage the condition. With the help of wearing a knee sleeve, you can gradually build up the gentle exercise and start to enjoy life again.
Taking medicine for arthritis in your knees
There are also arthritis medications you can take, either from the doctor or, if you prefer, there are many alternative supplements available to help with arthritis. You can also seek out physiotherapy or other therapies that might help you keep you mobile. Of course, I am not a doctor but these are the things that unfolded, on the subject of arthritis and the management of it, as I did my research on the subject of knee sleeves and arthritis.
Inflammatory arthritis is most commonly known as rheumatoid arthritis, but can also be present in the form of:
- Psoriatic arthritis
I have a very dear friend with fibromyalgia who suffers intensely from knee pain. A few weeks ago, I gave her one of our top selling knee sleeves to test out. She has been wearing it on her worst knee and has reported some significant improvements in her comfort levels. Fibromyalgia can be extremely painful on the joints, so anything that helps is welcome.
Infectious arthritis is where an infection has entered the joint, caused by bacteria. This can trigger the onset of infectious arthritis. You will likely have a large amount of swelling and feel very ill. If caught early on, this is very treatable. I had no idea about the existence of infectious arthritis but I am glad I have been able to highlight it because if it happens to you, you can catch it and get it treated quickly.
Metabolic arthritis can be bought on by metabolic abnormalities like gout for instance. It can also be hereditary or bought on by infections, either directly or indirectly. If there is an immune system issue that can also be a cause.
Clearly metabolic and infectious arthritis have to be managed by a medical professional before anything else is considered. But, if there is knee pain or discomfort, a knee sleeve can be a huge help at any stage.
What can make arthritis worse?
Bending, kneeling and squatting, as well as climbing the stairs, puts extra pressure on the knees. Conversely, long periods of inactivity can make the pain and stiffness worse. You may find that it feels more uncomfortable first thing in the morning, but gradually improves as you move about during the day. Being overweight is also a big indicator in increasing your chances of arthritis. It is said that 2 out of 3 overweight people will develop arthritis
Exercise and Arthritis
Your first thought – and it would be a natural thought of course – might be that you need to do less exercise to alleviate the condition of arthritis in the knees. This is bought about by a perfectly understandable fear that movement might be painful or it might make your condition worse and maybe experience more pain.
I can understand that, it is natural that we want to protect any painful areas of our bodies and so we stop moving. However, leading experts, doctors included, suggest that light to moderate, regular exercise can help to manage conditions such as arthritis. This is because physical activity keeps you moving and increases blood flow and oxygen to the muscles.
Also, the worst thing you could do is to stop exercising because you will lose muscle. By maintaining light to moderate exercise 3-5 times a week, you are helping to build the muscle to support your knees. I hope that makes sense.
But, of course, and quite naturally, you are worried that it is going to hurt if you start walking or taking other exercise. I don’t advocate joining a workout class but a little gentle walk, building up each day, can go a long way towards helping to keep you mobile.
This is where a knee sleeve proves to be very useful because it:
- Enables you to start moving, while protecting and stabilizing your knees.
- Gives you the confidence to keep moving, gradually building up day by day. That way you can take the exercise that helps you manage your weight and keep your muscles working
- Increases blood flow to the area whether you are moving or not, so your knee is always gaining the benefits from wearing it
- Increases your confidence in your own body – you can carry on with your day to day chores and movements without fearing loss of control of your knee
Now, we do know that the main purpose of a knee sleeve is to protect the knee from risk of being damaged. Many people happily wear them for running or walking. They provide a feeling of stability and increase your confidence in movement. But, wearing a knee sleeve for arthritis is definitely going to be a big help.
How Do Compression Knee Sleeves Work?
A knee sleeve works by applying compression that increases the flow of blood, thus bringing more oxygen to the area around the joint — helping to reduce pain and encourage muscle strength. The majority of knee sleeves on the market are made of strong neoprene which simply slides on over the knee, positioned in a way that is most comfortable for you.
The neoprene material adds to the warmth in the knee as it supports and limits the amount of movement from the patella. With that restriction, creates stability in the joint which minimizes the risk of further damage to the joint.
Powering up blood flow with Knee-sleeves
As arthritis is (technically) an inflammation of the joint, then it makes logical sense to understand that by increasing blood flow to the area, it can definitely improve your sense of comfort.
Typically, most people report that when they use a knee sleeve they feel far less pain and discomfort and feel safe in the knowledge that the knee sleeve is supporting their knee, thus reducing the risk of further damage.
From my own experience:
I can tell you that the warmth and compression of a knee sleeve can help if you have arthritis. An arthritic knee-joint is not only painful, but also can cause you to feel vulnerable to a wrench or fall. It’s always unpleasant not being able to move around without fear of pain or discomfort.
Not being able to perform my normal daily activities can feel disabling and particularly so when I feel disabled when it comes to my sports and routine exercise.
What other benefits are there for wearing a knee sleeve?
It is said that you can improve your sense of proprioception when wearing a knee sleeve because, as soon as you put in on, your knee automatically feels more stable. That feeling of stableness makes me feel much more confindent in whatever movements my knees are undertaking.
If you don’t know what proprioception means don’t worry, I wasn’t sure either so I looked it up! Basically, it is your body’s ability to sense any movement in your joints and the feeling that you know where your legs, and other body parts, are without having to look down to check. For instance, if you are standing up, can you feel if your feet are facing straight ahead or are they turned in or out?
If you over-pronate (feet rolling in as you walk or run) this can cause further problems with the knees over a period of time unless you buy shoes to avoid this issue or purchase supportive insoles for over-pronating. This is something to think about in your quest to improve your knee pain. I have found that my knee sleeves helps to keep all the muscles in my legs aligned and strong.
Official testing for benefits of wearing knee sleeves for arthritis
The NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) conducted an in-depth test to measure the immediate effect of wearing a knee sleeve in the case of osteoarthritis. They conducted the test with seventy four patients (on both knees) and used a stair climber to measure the levels of improvement – or not. Tests were conducted with and without the knee sleeve so that differences could be measured. The sleeves were covered so the actual tester did not know if the person being tested was wearing a sleeve or not.
I am happy to report that a significant difference was found in the wearers of the knee sleeves. This is their conclusion
“The elastic knee sleeve proved to be effective to immediately improve the functional capacity and pain of individuals with KOA (knee Osteoarthritis), because it enhanced performance during the tests proposed. Thus, the knee sleeve is an adjuvant resource for treating KOA, because it is practical, useful, and of easy clinical use, and can aid in the practice of therapeutic exercises.”
SEE THE FULL TEST HERE
So, not only do knee sleeves help my own arthritis, but from more professional research: the defining conclusion is that there is definitely a strong case for wearing a knee sleeve if you have arthritis in the knees.
There is no doubt in my mind that wearing a knee sleeve will help you:
- Manage your pain by providing warmth and support
- Provide stability to the joint
- Encourage you to take gentle exercise
- Improve pain levels, sometimes significantly
Please take a look at our recommended knee sleeves, because I cannot say enough that you simply must not buy a low quality knee sleeve. Two things that matter are comfort and efficiency.
There’s no doubt about it:
A cheap, poorly made knee sleeve will be uncomfortable and will not do the job you need it for.
You don’t have to spend a fortune, but we advise that you buy the best that you can afford. The difference in the best and mediocre is highly noticeable and can lead to little reduction in your knee pain or no reduction at all.
Prior to starting this website, I have tried cheap knee sleeves and found they cut into my skin or were simply intolerable to wear for extended periods of time. Not good!
Make sure that you purchase the right size and build up to wearing it because, if you haven’t worn one before, it can feel a little odd at first. Over the course of a few days or weeks, you will forget you are wearing it and find that you are moving around with a lot less pain.
We hope that this article has been helpful to you and we look forward to hearing about how you get on with wearing a good quality knee sleeve for your arthritis.